- James Walker, ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter
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Here are some early preseason storylines to keep an eye on in Miami:
Week 1 at Atlanta Falcons
Analysis: This will be an interesting preseason opener for several reasons. First, the Dolphins get to face former teammate and defensive tackle Paul Soliai in his Atlanta debut. Soliai was a longtime starter in Miami before the team let him walk this year in free agency. He signed a $33 million contract with the Falcons and is expected to anchor the middle of Atlanta’s defensive line. Despite limited snaps, Soliai will be motivated to do well against his former team. On the flip side, Week 1 of the preseason also will mark the return of Dolphins Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes to Atlanta. Grimes spent six years with the Falcons before signing with Miami in 2013. He will play against his former team for the first time.
Week 2 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Analysis: New Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey spent 18 years with the Buccaneers. He has a lot of ties there and will return to Tampa Bay as the Dolphins’ lead man. Hickey had a hand in picking a lot of players on Tampa Bay’s roster.
Week 3 vs. Dallas Cowboys
Analysis: Things are always interesting when the high-profile Cowboys come to town. This doesn’t happen often in Miami. It’s also important because it’s the third preseason game. The Dolphins and Cowboys will play their starters for about three quarters of this game in preparation for the regular season. It should be the most competitive preseason game of the summer.
Week 4 vs. St. Louis Rams
Analysis: The Rams have several interesting ties to Miami in the preseason finale. Former Dolphins No. 1 overall pick Jake Long will make his first return trip to Sun Life Stadium, although most starters won’t see much playing time. Long played five years with the Dolphins before signing with St. Louis as a free agent in 2013. New Dolphins free-agent signings Cortland Finnegan and Shelley Smith are former Rams, as well. St. Louis head coach Jeff Fisher also has an interesting tie to Miami. Three seasons ago Fisher was Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’ top choice to become head coach. Fisher took his time choosing between Miami and St. Louis and ultimately picked the Rams. Miami wound up hiring Joe Philbin after Fisher turned the Dolphins down.
The NFL released its 2014 preseason schedules on Wednesday. The Miami Dolphins will try to use the exhibition season to work out any issues before the real games begin.